Creatives & Changemakers

Barcelona links technology and innovation with culture, creative industries and social innovation

Caroline Wendt
March 2, 2020

We have come to know Barcelona as a centre for the smart city movement with a focus on technology and digitalization. It is there that the large conferences in Smart City and ITC are held annually. Now comes new inspiration from the city through their work to weave together social innovation and creative industries with smart technology. "The trend is that you can no longer work solely with technology without having to think more about the content. It is important to create a foundation for the city and its citizens, otherwise people will oppose development", says Future by Lund’s Katarina Scott.

In conjunction with the work of the large joint European project Creative and Cultural Spaces and Cities (CCSC), participants from Lund Urban Lab visited the Sant Boi de Llobregat's innovation hub Coboi on the outskirts of Barcelona to meet, among others, advocates of culture, innovation, digitalisation, citizen platforms and the city.

- A common view expressed by everybody that we met was that areas within the smart city - digitalization, creative industries and social innovation - are now merging, says Katarina Scott. For cities we talk about the need for better interconnection between politicians, civil servants, companies and citizens. One reason for this is that the distances between technology, globalization, innovation areas and people's everyday lives has become too great.

For example, the Catalan region is working to develop cooperation between technology and social impact. While on site, the participants from Lund heard how the Catalan region - in the fields of digitalization and smart technology - has actively sought partnerships with hubs and innovation centers also in the social and creative fields, since they possess the skills for interaction and participation. By using external organizations that have their own community of users and co-creators, together we can listen and reflect to frame questions, go in-depth and create solid foundations. Then specialists and engineers can develop better solutions.

- It is interesting to see how the city, in their mission to build ties with society, is now trying to work via partnerships, suggests Katarina Scott. The partner is the one that has the relationships and the community and consequently also holds the credibility in that group. In this way, through relationship building, you can broaden who you are involved and interact with, investigate if you are working with the right questions and thus design better solutions. At the same time, you must accept that you cannot steer or control your partners but must find new forms of collaboration and resource allocation. You can also scale-up and reach out to citizens with the help of digital forms.  

On site at Sant Boi de Llobregat and in Barcelona the participants from Lund Urban Lab and CCSC could see examples of how to build infrastructure to support culture, innovation, and creativity - which also includes civic and local community centres with workshops, libraries and meeting places. The Innovation Ecosystem consists of small agile groups containing between 4-10 persons with diverse expertise. These and similar groups create networks and overlap their operation while focusing on a combination of strategy and delivery, and with less focus on administration.

Barcelona has invested in cultural and innovation districts, often in areas with closed industries that are positioned like a belt just outside the city centre but have now grown together with the city. In these areas, efforts have been made to secure space and premises to accommodate different actors within an innovation ecosystem, so that there are creative industries, maker spaces, workshops, cultural creators, workplaces and studios, meeting places, education, research and tech companies.  

- In Barcelona and Sant Boi de Llobregat they seem aware that one should work long-term forming close ties and strategies, building innovation hubs and innovation districts, securing space for creativity and culture, and combining with deliverables, says Katarina Scott. It is important to make big processes and events smaller in order to build interest and understanding, and as a result we have gained many insights into how we can involve citizens. It is not perfect, but an interesting direction.

All in all, it was a very rewarding meeting with many new contacts and ideas to take home.

- It was very interesting that the people we met were not so focused on the ownership of the projects they participated in, but were more focused on collaboration, considers Katarina Scott. If there was something that did not work, it would be analyzed why – and often the conclusion was that someone had said that it was their area of responsibility and did not want to collaborate. Barcelona does a fantastic job, but we have to remember that it is a big city with many resources and premises and additionally is good at self-organization. We cannot achieve this – but there are many inspiring insights that we can take with us and apply to Lund!

Contributors at Coboi: Sergi Frías - Head of Coboi lab, Marcela Arreaga - Strategic designer at Coboi lab, Angela Herrera - Project manager at Coboi lab' Isabel Sarrate - Strategic coordinator in Sant Boi city council, Juanjo Esteban - LAC coordinator, Xavier Pérez -  Responsible of Culture Neighborhoods Program, Antoni Xavier Fernandez - Head of the citizen participation department, Manuela Herrera - Citizen participation department, Carol Jauregui - Creative and Graphic Designer, Ricard Benítez - Generalitat de Catalunya, Katarina Scott – Future by Lund, Birgitta Persson – Future by Lund, Marcus Lampe – Kulturmejeriet, Rosa Rydahl - Stenkrossen


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